Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

man thought himself at liberty to indulge his own caprice and advance his own opinions. They then disturbed each other with contrariety of inclinations, and difference of sentiments ; and Abouzaid was necessitated to offend one party by concurrence, or both by indifference.

He afterwards determined to avoid a close union with beings fo discordant in their nature, and to diffuse himself in a larger circle. He practised the smile of universal courtely, and invited all to his table, but admitted none to his retirements. Many who had been rejected in his choice of friend thip, now refused to accept his acquaintance, and of those whom plenty and magnificence drew to his table, eva ery one pressed forward toward intimacy, thought himself overlooked in the crowd, and murmured because he was not diltinguilhed above the relt. By degrees, all made advances, and all resented répulse. The table was then covered with delicacies in vain ; the music founded in empty rooms; and Abouzaid was left to form, in folitude, some new scheme of pleature or security.

Resolving now to try the force of gratitude, he inquired for men of science, whose merit was obicured by poverty. His house was foon crowded with poets, sculptors, painters, and designers, who wantoned in unexperienced plenty ; and employed their powers in celebrating their patron. But in a thore time they forgot the distress from which they had been rescued ; and began to consider their deliverer as a wretch of narrow capacity, who was growing great by works which he could not perform, and whom they overpaid by condescending to accept his bounties. Abouzaid lieard their murmurs, and dismissed them; and from thar hour continued blind to colours, and deaf to panegyric.

As the fons of art departed, muttering threats of perpetual infamy, Abouzaid, who stood at the gate, called to him Hamet the poet. “ Hamet," said he, “thy ingratitude has put an end to my hopes and experiments. I have now learned the vanity of those labours that wilh to be reward. ed by human benevolence. I shall henceforth do good, and avoid evil, without respect to the opinion of men ; and refolve to folicit only the approbation of that Being, whom alone we are sure to please by endeavouring to please him.”

DR. JOHNSON, SECTION III.

The folly and niisery of idleness. The idle man lives not to himfell, with any more advan. tage than he lives to the world. Ic is indeed on a luppofition entirely opposite, that persons of this character proceed. They imagine that, how deficient foever they may be in point of duty, they at least confult their own fatisfa&tion. They leave to others the drudgery of life ; and betake themselves, as they think, to the quarter of enjoyment and ease. Now, in contradiction to this, I affert, and hope to prove, that the idle man, firit, shuts the door again it all improvement; next, that he opens it wide to every de. fructive folly; and, lastly, that he excludes himself from the true enjoyment of pleasure.

First, He shuts the door against improvement of every kind, whether of mind, body, or fortune. The law of our nature, the condition under which we were placed from our birth, is, that nothing good or great is to be acquired, without toil and industry. A price is appointed by Provi. dence to be paid for every thing; and the price of improvement is labour. Industry may, indeed, be sometimes disappointed. The race may not always be to the fwift, nor the battle to the strong. But, at the same time, it is certain that, in the ordinary course of things, without strength, the battle cannot be gained ; without fwiftness, the race cannot be run with fuccess."

If we confült either the improvement of the mind, or the health of the body, it is well known that exercise is the great intrument of promoting both. Sloth enfeebles equally the bodi. ly, and the mental powers: As in the animal system it engeriders disease, fo on the faculties of the soul it brings a fa. tal ruit, which corrodes and waltes them; which, in a short time, reduces the brightest genius to the same level with the Ineanell understanding. The great differences which take place among men are not owing to a distinction that nature has made in their original powers, so much as to the fupe. rior diligence with which fome have improved these powers beyond others. To no purpose do we possess the seeds of many great abilities, if they are suffered to lie dormant within us. It is not the latent poffeffion, but the active exertion of them, which gives them merit. Thousands, whom indolence has funk into contemptible obscurity, might have come forward to the highest distinction, if idleness had mot frustrated the effect of all their powers.

Instead of goiar on to improvement, all things go to decline, with the idle man. His character falls into con. tempt. His fortune is consumed. Disorder, confufion, and embarrassment, mark his whole situation. Obferve in what lively colours the state of his affairs is described by

Solomon. “1 went by the field of the flothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding. And lo! it was all grown over with thorns ; nettles had covered the face thereof; and the stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it well. I looked upon it, and received instruction." Is it in this manner, that a man lives to himself? Are these the advantages, which were expected to be found in the lap of ease? The down may at first have appeared soft ; but it will soon be found to cover thorns innumerable. This is, however, only a small part of the evils which persons of this description bring on theafelves ; for,

In the second place, while in this manner they shut the door again't every improvement, they open it wide to the molt destructive vices and follies. The human mind cannot remain always unemployed. Its paflionis must have fome exercise. If we supply them not with proper employment, they are sure to run loose into riot and disorder, While we are unoccupied by what is good, evil is continually at hand, and hence it is said in Scripture, that as soon as Satan " found the house empty," he took pofleflion, and filled it " with evil spirits.' Every man who recol. lects his conduct may be fatisfied, that his hours of idleness have always proved the hours most dangerous to virtue. It was then, the criminal desires arose : guilty pursuits were luggested ; and designs were formed, which in their issue, havę disquieted and embittered his whole life. If seasons of idieness are dangerous, wliat mult a continued habit of it prove? Habitual indolence, by a frient and le.' cret progrets, undermines every virtue in the foul. More violent pallions run their course, and terminate. They are like rapid torrents, which fuam and swell, and bear down every thing before them. But after having overflowed their banks, their impetuolity subsides. They return, by degrees, into their natural channel ; and the damage which they have done can be repaired. Sloth is like the lowly.flowing, putrid ftream, which stagnates in the malh, breeds venomous animals and poisonous plants ; and infects with peltilential vapours the whole country round it. Having once tainted the foul, it leaves no part of it sound; and, at the same time, gives not those alarms to conscience which the eruptions of bolder and fiercer emotions often Occalion. The disease which it brings on is creeping and inlidious; and is, on that account, more certainly mortal.

[ocr errors]

In gen

One constant effect of idleness, is to nourish the paffions, and, of course, to heighten our demands for gratification ; while it unhappily withdraws from us the proper means of gratifying these demands. If the desires of the indus, trious man are set upon opulence or distinction, upon the conveniences, or the advantages of life, he can accomplifh his desires, by methods which are fair and allowable. The idle man hias the same desires with the industrious, but not the same retourges for compafling his ends by honourable means. He must therefore turn himself to feek. by fraud, or by violence, what he cannot fubmit to acquire by industry. Hence, the origin of thofe multiplied crimes to which idleness is daily giving birth in the world ; and which contribute so much to violate the order, and to dilurb the peace, of society. eral, the children of idleness may be ranked under two de nominations, or classes of men. Either incapable of any effort, they are such as fink into abfolute meannels of character, and contentedly wallow with the drunkard and debauchee, among the herd of the sensual, until poverty over. takes them, or disease cuts them off ; or, they are such as, retaining some remains of vigour, are impelled by their passions to venture on a desperate attempt for retrieving their ruined fortunes. In this case, they employ the art of the fraudulent gamefter to infnare the unwary. They issue forth with the highwayman to plunder on the road; or with thief and the robber, they infelt the city by night. From this class our prisons are peopled ; and by them the fcaffold is furnilhed with those melancholy admonitious, which are so oflen delivered from it to the crowd. Such are frequently the tragical, but well known, consequences of the vice of idleness.

In the third, and last place, how dangerous foever idleness may be to virtue, are there not pleasures, it may be said, which attend it ? Is there not ground to plead, that it brings a release from the oppressive cares of the world; and soothes the mind with a gentie satisfaction, which is not to be found amidst the toils of a busy and active life?

This is an advantage which, least of all others, we admit it to poffefs. In behalf of incessant labour no man contends. Occasional release from toil, and indulgence of ease, is what nature demands, and virtue allows. But what we affert is, that nothing is so great an enemy to the

lively and spirited enjoyment of life, as a relaxed and indo. lent habit of mind. He who knows not what it is to la. bour, knows not what it is to enjoy. The felicity of human life depends on the regular prosecution of some laudable purpose or object, which keeps awake and enlive ens all our powers. Our happiness conlists in the pursuit, much more than in the attainment, of any temporal good. Rest is agreeable ; but it is only from preceding labours that reft acquires its true relish. When the mind is suffer. ed to remain in continued inaction, all its powers decay. It foon languishes and fickens ; and the pleasures which it proposed to obtain from rest, end in tediousness and infip. idity. To this, let that miserable set of men bear witness, who, after spending great part of their life in active induftry, have retired to what they fancied was to be a pleasing enjoyment of themselves, in wealthy inactivity, and profound Tepose. Where they expected to find an elysium, they have found nothing but a dreary and comfortless waste. Their days have dragged on, in uniform languor ; with the melancholy remembrance often returning, of the cheerful hours they paffed, when they were engaged in the honest business, and labours of the world.

We appeal to every one who has the least knowledge or observation of life, whether the busy, or the idle, have the molt agreeable enjoyment of themselves ? Compare them in their families. Compare them in the societies with which they mingle ; and remark, which of them discover most cheerfulness and gaiety, which possess the most regular flow of spirits ; whose temper is most equal ; whose good humour, most unclouded. While the active and dile igent both enliven, and enjoy society, the idle are not only a burden to themselves, but a burden to those with whom they are connected ; a nuisance to all whom they oppress with their company.

Enough has now been faid to convince every thinking person of the folly, the guilt, and the misery of an idle state. Let these admonitions ftir us up to exert ourselves in our different occupations, with that virtuous activity which becomes men and Christians. Let us arise from the bed of Aloth; distribute our time with attention and care ; and improve to advantage the opportunities which Providence has bestowed. The material business in which our several ftations engage us may often prove not sufficient to occupy. the whole of our time and attention. In the life even of

« ПредишнаНапред »